As we passed the halfway point in our trip, we officially arrived in Southern Iceland. This area has the most to see, and is also the most crowded (many people who don’t have more time tend to take day-trips from Reykjavik to see some of the spots on the southern coast), so we planned to give ourselves more time in this area than any other. We had also been saving most of our excursions for the next few days in the area, so we were feeling excited to get moving.

Our first stop in the area was Skaftafell National Park. It’s technically a campground, so if we had planned things a bit differently we could’ve stayed there and spent more time exploring, but as it was we spent a few hours on a hike to get to Skkaftafell.   

The map noted that it’s “the easiest hike in the park”. Please note that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It was hella steep, and probably the most serious hike we did all trip (the closest hike to the kind we do back home), but it’s certainly worth it. 

After a quick lunch in the van, we resumed our audiobook and drove to our next destination: Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. This place is magic. Easily one of the top photos I’ve taken on this trip.There’s nothing else I can say about it.

I mean…. Look at it… are you kidding me?!

From this ridiculously peaceful view, we headed to one of the most visited sites in Iceland: Reynisfjara Beach. This famous beach has a truly crazy amount of basalt columns, which attracts the mountains of tourists.

As cool as this beach is, please be aware of “sneaker waves”. The week before we arrived a tourist from Canada was swept away by one of these waves and lost her life. While you’re here, never turn your back to the tide and make sure you stay aware of the waves coming in. 

After walking along the beach for an hour or so, Chelsea found an amazing campsite nearby. It was a few miles off the main road, but we’ve gone further before, so no red flags were sounding in my head. 


Cut to that road. Holy shit, that road was stressful. Several miles of potholes and steep drop-offs. Whoever set up the signs to that campground deserves a raise, because every time we started to feel uneasy, like we’ve been moving in the wrong direction, there was a sign noted “Pakgil :)”. 

Finally, after 40 minutes of blind corners and bumpy road, we pull up in a valley of dreams. Literally, we pull up at 11pm, but this valley was made of dreams. There was a cave full of candle tea lights where we could cook free from the wind, and there were hiking paths disappearing into the middle of the mountains. It was easily the most unique camp experience we had the whole trip. If we had planned more in advance, we would have stayed longer and spent some time traveling these trails and exploring this magical place. Easily the most magical place we slept. 

We cooked an extensive dinner to celebrate this magical campsite.

This cave served as a cooking area and was outfitted with candle tea-lights.

Waking up in Pakgil, we were so hesitant to leave, knowing in our guts that we would never encounter another place like this on this trip, and maybe in our lives. But knowing that we had several hours of driving ahead of us, we soaked up as much of the magic as we could as we headed out on the pot-hole infested road.

Finally clearing the somewhat terrifying road from Pakgil and waving our encouragement to other HappyCamer vans, we were back on the road again. This time though, we were backtracking. I previously mentioned the importance of planning a few days ahead once you’re in the south, and I’ll reiterate that here. It was due to our lack of planning that we were backtracking 3 hours to experience the Glacier Lagoon. 

It was worth every minute. 

We suited up yet again and took a (definitely overkill) bus to our boat that would take us out in the lagoon to get closer to Vatnajökull - the largest glacier in Iceland. This glacier has been retreating for a few years, but despite this, it still takes up roughly 7% of Iceland’s total land mass. 

This excursion took us about a mile from the glacier as we cruised past icebergs and gray seals. 

As was true with the Husavik whale watching excursion, this was quickly a highlight of the trip. We experienced very lucky weather. Even in June, sun is rare in Iceland, and the warm conditions lead to an amazing experience by this glacier as we heard it creak under the sun. 

The drive back onto our track felt much easier than the day before, knowing what we had in store for us the next day. We pulled up to Skógafoss campground, right by one of the most infamous Iceland waterfalls to cook dinner and pass out, trying to save our energy for the next day. 

We had a few stops along the way, but really all we were thinking about this day was our horse tour with “Mr. Iceland”. A few days prior I had found this through a link through a link and I was so excited to get an authentic Icelandic experience.


We pulled up to the farm, and there was one other camper van in the small lot. It turned out that the two women in that van would be our only other tour-mates throughout this whole experience. 

Mr. Iceland is 37th generation Icelandic, which is pretty much as Icelandic as you can get. He gave us a history of the horse, how they needed to be both a work horse and a distance riding horse and how they taught their horses to use their back legs to carry the weight and live a healthier and longer life.

I had never ridden a horse before (I didn’t count the very limited experiences I had as a 10 year old), and that became pretty apparent as we tacked up the horses and took a “trial run” within the barn. I struggled to control my horse, knowing that I had very limited experiences and was generally pretty anxious, but after a while I gained a bit of comfort and was able to enjoy the experience of prancing around the property and through streams a bit more. 

Although I’m vegetarian, the dinner that we had was the best I had on the trip (including in Reykjavik). I didn’t partake in the lamb, but the potatoes and salad were honestly out of this world. 

Once we left the sanctuary of the farm, we headed to the last campsite of our trip. It took us three tries, but eventually we landed at a spot with showers and a cafe, where I had a few glasses of wine as I edited a few photos from the trip, and severely overplayed “nothingness” by okay alright. Some part of me knew that this would be the last night in the van, so I took extra stock of my surroundings, noticed the children playing and travelers playing golf and tourists trying to get a few hours of shut eye. I joined them, knowing I had a few days left and wanted to rest to be able to enjoy the rest of my trip.